November 1, 2018 at 7:21PM, Edited November 1, 7:23PM

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Female Directors at the TFF

INTERVIEWS WITH FEMALE DIRECTORS AT THE TALLGRASS FILM FESTIVAL 2018

If you've never been to the Tallgrass Film Festival in Wichita Kansas then you're missing out. It is 5 days filled with short films, documentaries, classes, filmmaker discussion panels, narratives, dramas, comedies, full-length features, and the most amazing parties! This year I had the privilege of interviewing several of the filmmakers at the festival (including Jim O'Heir from Parks and Rec!). I asked each group about their process and here are some highlights from those conversations.

Director and Producer Kendall Goldberg talks about the process of making her new film When Jeff Tried To Save The World, along with one of the film’s stars Jim O’heir. “We started with the feature script. I started writing it after my Freshman year of college, and as each summer went by that was my only opportunity to go and film it, but the summer would go by and I didn’t have what I needed, I had some parts of the puzzle coming together but not everything, and I thought well this is going to be a wasted summer if I don’t do something. So like two summers into it I thought well let’s at least go with what people are advising me to do, and condense it and make a proof of concept or just do a scene. I decided to condense the full story, because I wanted a stand alone short that I could submit to festivals and people could watch it and feel like it wasn’t just a random scene out of context.” Through this process Goldberg realized that this was a great learning opportunity to grow and really get ready to shoot the full feature. Also she was able to do some rewrites and work with the cast and work on their characters before shooting the feature, which is something you don’t normally get to do. In the end she said she’s happy she did it, even though it wasn’t her “best piece of work”.
Here’s what Mr. O’heir had to say about doing an indie film with a relatively unknown director, “if the material is good, I don’t care. Good material is good material, I don’t care how it gets to me. You give actors a script that means something to them. I’m telling ya, they make things happen. There’s ways to make your money. You can do your TV shows and that’s how my bills are paid, but give me a script that lets me do something I don’t normally get to do, and you’ll get actors there.” Recalling some advice she has received from friends and filmmakers over the years Goldberg said, “just get out and go make something on your phone, it’s so easy”. And her most important piece of advice for female filmmakers? “Don’t take no for an answer”.

Next up to talk about her filmmaking process was Catherine Cobb Ryan. She was the writer, director, producer, and one of the actors in her film Season of Passage. “So I came at it from an actor's perspective, because mostly I’m an actor. I’d never made a film before. I partnered with my associate producer David Spaltro and receive some guidance from him. But I really had no idea how to approach it. First I wrote my script, and then I was told by a friend ‘get a line producer’, and that's really where my whole technical journey began.” Explaining how she was able to juggle all her different tasks Ryan said, “David Spaltro was the behind the camera director, so that I could focus on acting, because I star in the film and if I didn’t do my job it wouldn’t have come out right. So a lot of those technical aspects (on the days of filming) I had ceded because I had talked about (previously) what I was looking for from an emotional journey point of view”. Her advice for female filmmakers? Give yourself more credit than you are, trust your instincts, follow what you feel inside and your passion, and be authentic. “Listen to the criticism or the critique, but stick with what you feel is the important thing. Unless you get, you know, three people that say ‘oh no that doesn't work’, because you will find your audience with your authenticity. And I’ll make a mistake. But I need to make my mistake. I won’t regret if I fail or make a mistake having done what I set out to do. But I will regret if I cede to another point of view, and I’ll always think ‘what if’. Just know that you can figure it out….. and get a good line producer!”

- by Andrea Lee (filmmaker and actress in Wichita, KS)

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